How Youth Ministry Crushes Your Self-Esteem

June 27th, 2017

It is crazy to think about, but I am rounding the corner on 20 years of student ministry. That is so long. That is so many hours, days, weeks, months and years pouring my guts out for students in an effort that they may know and love Jesus someday. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE IT!!!

But over the last couple of years, I have had this awful realization, YOUTH MINISTRY CRUSHES YOUR SELF ESTEEM!

What is so hard about this reality is that it sneaks up on you.

In the normal career curve of the youth worker, it begins with us being a few years older than the students we work with. We are like big brothers or sisters and love “leading” young people to Jesus. But really, we are just not quite reflective enough or self-aware enough to realize that we are not even considered by the students we so desperately love and give our lives to.

But soon, it all catches up to us. Sometimes it takes a matter of months or just a few years, or in my case, a solid 15 years to realize that this continued outpouring of love and grace to students who are fickle, give little to no positive feedback, and who’s lives show little fruit over the long haul, can be crushing.

Adult ministry is a piece of cake in comparison.

I am starting to realize why so many of my fellow youth workers get out of the gig as soon as they can. Adult ministry is so easy in comparison. I am right now teaching and adult ed class, and it is like shooting fish in a barrel.

My baseline is teaching Sunday School. A room full of blank stares at an ungodly hour for adolescents, as I try to use this time to help our students go “deeper” in their walk with Jesus. The only flicker of life is when one of their phone’s buzz from a snap chat sent by someone else in the room.

So, you could imagine my surprise that when all the hours of preparation now is going toward a room full of adults who actually want to be there, want to grow in their faith and want to be challenged to go deeper. It was crazy to have people actually answer your questions and stay on topic as you facilitate discussion. And you could imagine my shock when some adults actually came up to me afterward and gave me some positive feedback.

Combine this adult ed class with the occasional preaching opportunity, and one could see the draw to adult ministry.

A couple of final thoughts:

  1. Our call is to students, and this is a true ministry. It is a call to serve, to embrace the bottom of the totem pole, and to offer our lives as a drink offering.
  2. Don’t give up and jump to adult ministry simply because you need more positive feedback in your life.
  3. Youth ministry does crush your self-esteem, so you must work so, so hard to be emotionally and spiritual healthy. Do what you must!!! Your ministry and your very soul depends on it!


benkearnsAfter almost two decades of student ministry, Benjamin Kerns’ heart still beats and breaks for students. Loving students and helping them love Jesus have been the foundational principles around which he has organized his life and ministry. While his job description has transformed over the years, he is still most passionate about investing in the student ministry at MARIN COVENANT CHURCH. Follow him on twitter at @AVERAGEYM.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.